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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

1 88                 The Loom of Language

THE INDO-EUROPEAN FAMILY

Similarities are comparatively easy to trace in closely i elated languages
such as Swedish and German or French and Italian We can still
detect some3 when we compare individual members of these groups
with those of others Centuries back some people felt, though dimly,
that the Teutonic group was not an isolated unit In 1597, Bonaventura
Vulcamus observed that twenty-two words are the same in German
and Persian. Twenty years later,, another scholar stressed the similari-
ties between Lithuanian and Latin Both were right, though both drew
the wrong conclusions from their findings, the former that German had
an admixture of Persian, the latter that the Lithuanians were of Roman
stock.

Two hundred years latei, in 1817, Rasmus Knsnan Rask, a brilliant
young Dane who had been investigating the origin of OH Norse m
Iceland, first drew attention to sound-correspondence between Greek
and Latin on the one hand, and the Teutonic languages on the other
Text-books usually refer to this discovery as Gnnwrfs Law  after the
German scholar who took up Rusk's idea One item of this mos>t cele-
brated of all sound-shifts is the change fiom the Latin p to the
Teutonic/:

IATIN                  1NGLISII               .SWiDLSa               GERMAN

plenus               /uil                  full

/<isch
j>ed-i$                /cot                  /ot                    Fuw
pater                /ather              /adcr                Fater
* The German V stands for the / sound in far,
A httle later the German scholar FranxC Bopp (1791-1867) showed
that Sanskrit, Persian, Greek, Latin, and Teutonic in us earlier stages,
have similar verb-flexions His studies led him to the conclusion that
Aryan verb- and case-flexion have come about by the gluing on of what
were once independent vocables such as pronouns and prepositions
It was a brilliant idea* Bopp's only weakness was that he tried to
establish its validity i^hen sufficient evidence was not available. Inevi-
tably, Jake other pioneers, he made errors. His disciples grossly neglected
the important part which analogy (pp 93 and 204) has played in the
accretion of affixes to roots. Subsequently a strong reaction set m. Even
now, many linguists approach Bopp's agglutination theory squeamishly,
as if it dealt with the human pudenda This attitude is none the less
foolish when it affects scientific caution for its justification, because